TAYLORSVILLE — It had the weight of a championship game. It had the euphoria of a championship atmosphere. And it paired the two best teams in the 4A classification — teams that entered with a collective record of 46-0 — against each other.
But it wasn’t a title bout.
Instead of meeting in the state championship game, No. 1 Springville and No. 2 Bonneville collided with each other in the 4A semifinals Friday at Salt Lake Community College.
In a game that very much looked like a prizefight, Springville never trailed and withstood a series of Laker runs to advance to the actual championship, 50-43.
“It did feel like it — yes. It’s too bad it wasn’t,” Springville coach Nancy Warner said of the championship game atmosphere inside SLCC. “But that’s the way it is. We need to make sure that we bring our game tomorrow. It means nothing if we don’t care of business (Saturday).”
The Devils face Timpview in the 4A championship game at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“Coming into the season our motto was 'undefeatable,' which is more of a mindset,” Bonneville coach Mike Russell said in soft-spoken tones afterward. “We talked about how defeat really isn’t defeat unless you accept it. One game doesn’t define who we are as a team. We lost the game, but I don’t think the kids will be down long.”
As Bonneville cautiously adjusted to the frenetic pace in the opening minutes, Springville cannonballed with a splash. The Devils (24-0) took a 10-2 lead with 4:40 remaining in the first quarter following consecutive 3s by Malia Nawahine and Savannah Park.
“I think that’s why we started slow,” Russell said of the championship environment. “We were a little bit tight with emotions running high.”
Nawahine, a Utah commit who finished with a game-high 16 points, and Park, who chipped in 14 points, accounted for all 10 of the opening points for the Red Devils.
Springville eventually ballooned its cushion to 11 with 2:11 in the first when Park, off a Lakers’ inbounds turnover, kissed a transition layup off the glass for an and-one.
But, as it proved over 32 minutes, Bonneville (23-1) had a few runs of its own. The Lakers pulled within one, 20-19, with just under three minutes left in the second quarter on a 9-0 rally.
“We could just never get over the hump,” Russell said. “It is was it is I guess.”
Springville's emphasis defensively was to be breath-smelling close to Bonneville’s trio of Emilie Volk, Kayla Eilertson and Cortney Porter, who entered with a combined average of 37 points per game.
“They have great players. (Volk is a) phenomenal player and we just had to contain them and not let them get things easy,” Warner said. “They’re going to get their points. They’re going to get rebounds and fill their stat lines. But to contain them as much as we could was our game plan.”
The three Laker stars shot 9 of 32 from the field as the physicality forced Bonneville to unload from the perimeter.
“They did a nice job taking away our transition in the second half. It was tough, with their size, to go inside,” Russell, whose team shot 4 of 23 from beyond the arc, said. “So, I think we had to settle for outside shots more than we normally do.”
Springville opened the second half on a 6-0 run with four minutes gone by in the third. But, the Lakers retaliated with a 13-4 run that culminated with Volk’s powerful layup to slice the deficit to 38-36 heading into the fourth quarter.
Volk, a Fresno State commit, finished with a 11-point, 12-rebound double-double.
“Just to re-focus on our game plan and to not let Bonneville continue with momentum,” Warner said when asked what she said after the third. “It’s a game of momentum and when the other team has it we have to do something to get it back. We had to re-focus and get stops defensively.”
Already in the bonus situation, and cranking up its defensively intensity, Springville limited the Lakers to two points for seven minutes in the fourth quarter, which allowed it to recapture a double-digit advantage at the line.
“We had to limit their offensive possessions, so we were patient offensively — knowing they had to foul. We just stepped to the free-throw line confidently,” Warner said.
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